Clergy In A Changing Health Care Landscape

In the changing landscape brought about by the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, lack of knowledge can be detrimental to those who might benefit most from the new health-care options. That’s not only the 14 percent of Marylanders who lack insurance. The “need for knowledge” applies to everyone covered by the act.

As professionals working with the grass roots, members of the clergy are uniquely positioned to educate the public regarding health-care options and to distribute information and direct people to available resources. Before doing so, however, rabbis, ministers, imams and other clergy must learn about the options themselves. For this reason, the Baltimore Jewish Council is sponsoring a Health Reform Faith Leader Summit on Tuesday, May 14, at the Weinberg Park Heights JCC, where clergy from Baltimore’s many religious communities will learn how to support the health and wellness of their congregants.

There will be sessions on health literacy, consumer assistance and Medicaid expansion. Participants also will learn how to connect their congregants to outreach, education and enrollment assistance — all designed to maximize consumer understanding of health-care options and availability.

We believe that it is crucial for our religious leaders to possess this knowledge. People listen to what their spiritual leaders have to say, and being able to dispense practical advice about health care along with spiritual counseling could be a real benefit. Clergy are also powerful community advocates, so it is important that they understand what the available resources are so that they can help their constituents get what they need.

One of the summit’s sponsors is the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, which is developing plans to open the state’s health insurance exchange in November. This is one of many tangible changes that the Affordable Care Act is bringing about. Knowledge is key to understanding these changes, and our clergy can be vital resources in bringing this knowledge to the community. We urge our community clergy to attend the summit and to fill this important role.

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